Aboriginal Land and Resource Management Conference

by NationTalk on September 17, 2009684 Views

Hon. Floyd K Roland
September 16, 2009
Conference Delegates

It is a pleasure to be here, and to have this opportunity to address the future of land and resource management in the Northwest Territories.

Two subjects that, for NWT residents, grow in importance with every passing year – and which will take on even greater significance in our Territory as the global economic conditions improve.There is only so much land on earth. And subsequently, there are only so many resources on and within this land.

The Northwest Territories is the biggest land region in Canada – and one of the last stable and resource rich places on earth. It is – I believe – one of the key reasons why the NWT – along with the rest of Canada’s North – is attracting so much international attention these days.

It is no accident that countries like Russia have been flexing their muscle… and that countries around the circumpolar world are engaging in complex territorial claims to the North.

A growing world population is generating increasing demands for energy, timber, metals and minerals. Estimates suggest the world’s population will increase to about 9.3 billion people by 2050.

Meanwhile, economic forecasters agree that it is only a matter of time before economic growth returns… In fact we’re seeing early signals that recovery may already have begun.

When growth returns, countries will want to be ready.

Countries like China and India, and other emerging markets, who have aspirations for development and growth – and are seeking out the resources they need to power that growth.

The North is one of the last frontiers of exploration and potential. It is no wonder, then that the Northwest Territories – blessed with its abundance of untapped resources – is increasingly drawing attention from investors around the world.

Consider the inventory of resource potential that exists in the Northwest Territories today:

• Twelve per cent of Canada’s productive forested lands;

• Three world-class diamond mines producing 15 per cent of the world’s diamonds…

• An abundance of economically valuable metals – not just base metals like gold silver and copper – but also uranium, tungsten and

• We are home to rare earth metals, which are used in products like solar panels…fuel cells… rechargeable batteries…. and electric cars. All the stuff you need for a greener economy;

• Our rivers and lakes have the potential to generate 11,500 megawatts of hydro power;

• We have an estimated 12 billion barrels of recoverable oil reserves;

• And our reserves of natural gas are estimated at almost 11 trillion cubic feet… with an ultimate recoverable resource of at least 75 trillion cubic feet.

Our vision, in the Northwest Territories, is to realize the full potential of this rich resource base – and – by supplementing it with tourism and cultural based industries – use it to ensure lasting prosperity for NWT residents and their communities.

We believe that the incredible resource potential that exists in our region can meet the resource demands of a growing world population and will – in the coming years – position our region as one of the major economic drivers of Canada.

It’s an exciting vision, with amazing possibilities. However, the most incredible part of this story comes in how it all relates to this conference here today.

You see… as we seek to develop our economy, we are not – and never have been – prepared to accept “development at any cost”. Northerners…and Aboriginal northerners in particular – have a special relationship with their lands and resources.

We recognize and understand that development must be sustainable… and that our lands and resources must be accessed in ways that respect and nurture the rich cultural and traditional ties our people have with their land.

Of equal importance is the need to ensure that our residents benefit from the opportunities realized by the development of our lands and resources – and that they share in the prosperity that our resources will generate.

This requires meaningful inclusion in all aspects of resource development. Not just at a peripheral level – but as investors and business people… as benefactors… and especially – as decision-makers.

These aren’t new concepts in the NWT. In fact, thanks to decisions and approaches that have been taken… Aboriginal people already have already advanced significant and growing roles in our Territory’s resource development.

The settlement of land claims began the growth of Aboriginal business capacity. With each settlement, land claim organizations and corporations gained the capital to invest while Benefit Agreements provided assurances that benefits from development return to Aboriginal people and communities.

The development of the NWT’s diamond sector also provided a watershed in the manner that we proceed with resource projects.

The interest and excitement generated by the original discovery of diamonds in our region highlighted to us the importance of ensuring that these precious resources were not extracted and removed simply in exchange for short term employment benefits. We demanded a say in the way the diamonds mines were developed to ensure that our people would realize real benefits through full participation in the development of our resource sector.

In time – and through a coordinated and collaborative approach with the diamond industry – we succeeded in generating those real benefits.

Meanwhile, we spurred a secondary diamond industry in our Territory – one strategically designed to move our region beyond just producing diamonds to cutting, polishing and today certifying some of the world’s best stones.

As a result of our effort, the multi-billion dollar investment in our diamond sector has served to create employment for Aboriginal people, build capacity in northern and Aboriginally owned businesses and has provided a boost to our retail and manufacturing sectors.

We have seen the emergence of everything from Aboriginally and northern owned airlines to drilling and construction firms; telecommunications and logistics companies; service and supply industries and so on.

Today, we continue to build on the approach we began with the diamond industry to increase the participation of Aboriginal people as investors and business owners in other areas of the economy as well.

Many of our Aboriginal businesses are now recognized nationally and internationally in areas such as oil field services, transportation, and northern construction. New opportunities offer the chance to expand on these successes. This includes the development of the NWT’s hydro-electric resources, which have the potential to position the NWT as a leader in clean energy generation. In a world desiring cleaner energy sources, it is the Aboriginal interests in our Territory that are now positioned to partner in the development of creative, technologically-driven solutions for mini-hydro and small hydro projects.

Our model of Aboriginal partnership and participation has also been applied to major infrastructure projects, such as our the Deh Cho Bridge project across the Mackenzie River…. and new precious metal developments near Thor Lake.

It is the APG or Aboriginal Pipeline Group, however, that has set the ultimate bar for Aboriginal participation in the NWT economy – by cementing ownership and benefits for NWT Aboriginal interests in an unprecedented one-third stake of the proposed Mackenzie Valley Pipeline.

Of course, beyond monetary benefits, Aboriginal groups involved in the Mackenzie Gas Project are engaged in meaningful consultations about the resources on their land – directly influencing the development of the pipeline, and having a voice that is being heard.

This then, is the second important way in which Aboriginal people are assuming roles in land and resource management – as benefactors and stewards.

Our Aboriginal people are the natural and historic custodians of our Northern lands. They are longstanding stewards of our pristine landscapes, air and water, and fish and wildlife resources.

We have valuable knowledge and perspectives to contribute to the responsible management of our lands and resources. This includes helping to determine whether a proposed development will have sufficient benefits for Northerners, relative to its impact…. and determining the best ways for beneficial developments to proceed.

Aboriginal participation on the NWT”s land and water boards are a strong case in point. These boards determine land use in our territory… and they have authority to provide permits to mining companies for any mineral, oil or gas development.

A variety of Monitoring and Advisory Boards in our territory further ensure Aboriginal co-management of our resources and enable Aboriginal governments in the NWT to work side-by-side with the NWT government in advisory monitoring and reporting roles.

Meanwhile, major resource projects have also resulted in a number of Impact Benefit Agreements between developers and specific Aboriginal governments.

These agreements – together with Socio-Economic Agreements established between developers and the NWT government – enable all parties – developers, Aboriginal governments, and the Territorial government – to address how a project will affect the land… how it will benefit or impact the people living on that land…. and what will be left behind on the land at the project’s conclusion.

The involvement of Aboriginal people as rightful benefactors recognizes the valuable role they play as stewards of our land and resources and is a testament to the unique and special relationship that Aboriginal people have with the land. It’s a perspective that needs to be embedded in our decision-making, and inform our development choices.

On a broader level, however, stewardship of the NWT’s land and resources is also strengthened by initiatives we are pursuing as a responsible and mature territorial government.

Northern lands and resources don’t belong exclusively to the Northerners of today, but also those of tomorrow. We have a responsibility to balance our economic development with the protection of our unique and remarkable environment… so that current and future generations of Northerners can benefit from both.

We understand the need for sustainable approaches to our land and resources.

Accordingly, our government is undertaking a water strategy to ensure decisions about the use of water resources are based on Northern perspectives.

We are developing a framework for land use in the NWT, which will provide guidance for future decisions about land management. Decisions that will be based on a coordinated and coherent vision that reflects a number of related issues, including resources… self-government negotiations with Aboriginal organizations… the creation and expansion of National Parks… and protected areas.

In March, we announced a comprehensive approach to regulatory improvement. Although this is primarily a federal responsibility, we recognize the need to be actively involved so that the regulatory system reflects Northern concerns and is in the best interests of Northern stakeholders.

We also continue to work with the federal government to finalize an agreement that will provide the NWT with a greater say over its own destiny – and enable Northerners to share fairly in the benefits of our natural resources.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I believe that the Northwest Territories is – and will continue to be – a leader in its recognition of the roles that Aboriginal people must have in the sustainable management of our land and resources – as economic participants, benefactors and decision-makers.

However, in coming years, we will need to ensure that these roles are – not just recognized – but enabled and facilitated. We’re at an important time in the history of the NWT. A number of issues that will impact the future of our territory are all growing in prominence at once.

Climate change remains a concern, one that Northerners have been aware of for years – and one which will have consequences for international trade and economic growth in the NWT.

As countries ramp up activities in their quest for natural resource exploration and control, Arctic sovereignty is also increasingly becoming a concern.

Interest in the North has never been higher. We’ve had more attention placed on the North in the last few years than in as many decades. Just last month, we welcomed the Prime Minister to Yellowknife where he reiterated his belief in the importance of the North and its incredible potential. Federal engagement in the North has increased.

Our growing world is looking for new, stable sources of energy and other natural resources. The NWT offers an abundance of largely untapped resources that can help power international economic growth.

The downturn we’ve experienced is presenting a window in which our entire nation can seize opportunity. By acting now, on projects such as the Mackenzie Gas Project (for example), we can cement lasting economic growth for decades, and give Canada an economic shot in the arm in the process.

Our willingness… our spirit … and our determination in addressing these opportunities and challenges reflects the courage and conviction of our North’s Aboriginal leaders.

It’s more important than ever for us to work together in partnership to secure greater progress and prosperity for our communities and the country as a whole.

As an Inuvialuit person, a leader and a Northerner, I have a passion to see my North… my territory… my people… succeed and prosper.

Like many Aboriginal people in Canada, I grew up on the land. My dad passed on the care of the land to me… so that it would be there for his children and his grandchildren. That’s a heritage I’m proud of.

Despite geographic or political separations that may exist between us… I know that this same passion, desire and pride exists – and drives – each of you. It’s at the heart of why we have each agreed to step forward as leaders, in some form or another.

The course of our history has – in too many instances – been beyond our control. Our evolution as Aboriginal people has been fast and it has been dramatic. It will be no less so in the future, as external factors… nationally and internationally… force us to adapt.

I’m confident in our ability to do just that.

The Northwest Territories today is its well on its way to being a thriving, self-sufficient land where our residents are healthy, educated, and able to participate fully in the economy….

We are growing strong and sustainable communities that will serve to legitimize Canada’s claims to northern and arctic sovereignty…

Our people are deeply connected with their environment, and committed to developing their resources and economy in ecologically sensitive and sustainable ways….

We are the heart of a new North – innovative and enterprising.

Most of all, we are seizing our future in ways that engage and benefit the Aboriginal people that call our Territory home.

As we continue our journey, it is my hope that we pave the way for similar approaches in other jurisdictions…. and in so doing, help build a stronger Canada.

Thank you.

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